Jul
06
2010

Feed
by Mira Grant
608pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7/10
Amazon Rating: 4.5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.29/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.24/5

Feed is the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy about the aftermath of the zombie apocalypse and will be followed by Deadline and Blackout. The series is by Mira Grant, another name for urban fantasy author Seanan McGuire. Normally I do not go near zombie stories, being very squeamish about blood, gore and descriptions of eating brains. However, I made an exception in this case for several reasons – and was glad I gave it a chance.

In the year 2014, a cure is developed for both cancer and colds. Unfortunately, this is not as idyllic as it sounds since there is a major disadvantage to these cures: they form the Kellis-Amberlee virus which, in turn, creates zombies. All of humanity has technically been infected with this virus, although it remains inactive for a time. Usually, people do not become zombies until their death results in resurrection as undead or they come into contact with the virus in its live state.

As one may imagine, the world has greatly changed as a result. Going outdoors or gathering in large crowds is no longer safe, and anytime a person is about to enter into contact with others they must undergo tests to make sure the virus is not alive, sometimes multiple times in a short period. One of the big changes is that the traditional media has been replaced by bloggers, who were instrumental in saving lives when the outbreak first occurred. They had no agenda other than ensuring survival and were allowed to freely state what they saw and learned. Many lives were saved due to their efforts and each one had a special place on the Wall, a collection of final blog entries to honor those who died in pursuit of truth.

Georgia (“George”) Mason is part of a blogging team, along with her brother Shaun and their friend Buffy (who renamed herself instead of being just another “Georgette” in honor of George Romero). George is a “Newsie,” the type of writer who strives to present an unbiased, factual viewpoint. As an “Irwin,” Shaun is likely to end up getting himself killed since he makes the news by entering danger zones and getting up-close and personal footage of the zombies. Buffy writes fiction, but she’s also a genius when it comes to technology. Together, they will soon make blogging history when they are chosen to cover the presidential campaign for Senator Peter Ryman, one of the front-runners for the Republican candidate. However, they discover an even bigger story after a couple of zombie outbreaks and George begins to suspect foul play.

Even though I occasionally experiment with horror, it’s not my genre of choice, especially if it’s the gory type that has body parts strewn everywhere. So I don’t go near books that proclaim “ZOMBIES INSIDE” and almost overlooked this one when a copy showed up in my mailbox. Then I noticed that Mira Grant was the same as Seanan McGuire, whose October Daye series has become a must-read for me. That made me curious enough to read the opening paragraph, which had the same light, humorous narration as the author’s other books:

Our story opens where countless stories have ended in the last twenty-six years: with an idiot — in this case, my brother Shaun — deciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens. As if we didn’t already know what happens when you mess with a zombie: The zombie turns around and bites you, and you become the thing you poked. This isn’t a surprise. It hasn’t been a surprise for more than twenty years, and if you want to get technical, it wasn’t a surprise then. [pp. 5]

After this, I was considering trying it, but I moved it to definite when Seanan McGuire left a comment saying it was more political science fiction than horror. After reading it, I’d definitely agree – it’s not scary or full of graphic descriptions of blood spurting everywhere. Although there are jokes made about brains getting eaten, I was thankful there were no actual occurrences of this nature. As far as being grossed out goes, it was fairly mild – there was nothing that was described in such detail that it turned my stomach and I’ve read plenty of fantasy books containing parts that were far more disgusting than anything in this book.

That’s not to say there is no sense of danger or excitement. Although it is about bloggers covering a political campaign, it is set in a world in which field reporting is not a safe profession. The very first scene in the novel has George and Shaun being chased by zombies, and this isn’t the only such event – but fortunately the book is about much more than that. It’s part adventure and part political thriller, but it’s also an examination of what the world might be like 26 years after a cataclysmic change. It’s also about the value of truth. Throughout the text are several entries from different blogs, many of which are both thoughtful and emotionally powerful reflections on the media and the world.

Although the details of how the world has changed since the Kellis-Amberlee virus was unleashed were very interesting, there was too much explanation about the world at times. This was definitely a fascinating take on the zombie apocalypse, and I much preferred reading about what it meant for the world than constant attacks by the undead. However, sometimes description about how different life has been since the zombies went on for long paragraphs and interrupted the momentum of the narrative, which was all from George’s point of view.

The ending was amazing – it was a very unusual, gutsy conclusion but strongly moving. It elevated my opinion of the book quite a bit.

While reading, I did feel like the main political candidates were too extreme. The Senator George and her team were reporting for seemed too good to be true – an honest, well-meaning man. His opponents were a woman who boosted her place in the polls by wearing little clothing and low-cut tops and a religious fanatic who thought the virus was God’s punishment on the world. Not a single one of them seemed like a well-balanced individual characterized by various good and bad traits, but seemed to fall into categories that were each on one extreme or the other: the good guy, the floozy and the crazy, hateful one.

Even though I usually would treat a zombie book like zombies themselves and run the other way, I’m glad I read this one. It contains the undead and has some tense chases involving them, but the focus is more on the political campaign, conspiracies, issues with news and media and a look at a world that has had to adapt to survive. It’s not too heavy since there is a sense of humor that runs through the main character’s voice, although sometimes this narrative does get bogged down by long descriptions of every little detail of the way life is after the zombie apocalypse.

My Rating: 7/10

Where I got my reading copy: Review copy from the publisher (they sent me both the ARC and the final copy and this review is based on the final published version).

Other reviews:

This week I am hoping to get up a review of Feed by Mira Grant, which is about halfway written. After that there is only one book left to review, Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I might get caught up over this next week.

This week I received one book in the mail that I am very excited about reading.

An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

The third book in the October Daye series will be released on September 7. The second book was released earlier this year, and I really enjoyed it so I’m looking forward to reading this one. Rosemary and Rue was good, and A Local Habitation was even better so I’m eager to see if this one continues the trend (although I’ll be pretty happy if I just like it as much as A Local Habitation). Faery, a tough but not even close to all-powerful heroine and Tybalt King of Cats… I may have to read this one before September.

Experience the thrill of the hunt in the third October Daye urban fantasy novel.

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling-half human and half fae-and the only one who has earned knighthood. Now she must take on a nightmarish new challenge. Someone is stealing the children of the fae as well as mortal children, and all signs point to Blind Michael. Toby has no choice but to track the villain down-even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael’s realm, home of the Wild Hunt-and no road may be taken more than once. If Toby cannot escape with the children, she will fall prey to the Wild Hunt and Blind Michael’s inescapable power.

Jul
01
2010

Like May, June was not a great reading month when it comes to the total number of books read. I’ve been a bit preoccupied lately – yesterday afternoon I officially became a homeowner so I have been spending a lot of the last two months picking out paint colors, cabinets, tiles, carpets, fans and lights. It’s been quite a process. We need to move for the second time this year and then hopefully reading will resume at a faster rate.

But even with only three books read, two of them were the longest books I’ve read so far this year (one was 600 pages and the other was 650 in hardcover) so I actually feel like I did better than last month. Plus I’ve reviewed one of them already so that’s some progress – the last two months have started with none of the previous month’s books reviewed. That’s actually one of the reasons I read some longer books.

June books are:

24. Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews (review)
25. Feed by Mira Grant
26. Naamah’s Kiss by Jacqueline Carey

Favorite book of the month: I liked all of these, but I’ll have to go with Magic Bleeds. I am so addicted to the Kate Daniels series.

Usually I’ve read at least one new author, but these were all authors I’ve read before. This was my fourth Ilona Andrews book, my third by Mira Grant (the other two were of course written as Seanan McGuire since that was the first book she wrote as Mira Grant – and I was very excited to receive her third October Daye book in the mail today!) and my third Jacqueline Carey novel.

So what did you read during June? What did you think of the books you read?

Magic Strikes
by Ilona Andrews
384pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.53/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.6/5

Magic Bleeds is the newest installment in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, a married couple who write together. It is the fourth book following Magic Bites, Magic Burns and Magic Strikes, which are best read in that order. There is also a related novella with a different main protagonist, Magic Mourns, in the anthology Must Love Hellhounds.

Note: There will be spoilers for the first three books in this series in this review – really big ones such as how Magic Strikes ends. This applies to the entire review, not just the plot description.

Although it is the end of Kate’s shift working for the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, she is called to look into an emergency situation when a fight breaks out at a bar. The Steel Horse is not just any bar since it exists on the border between the Pack of shapeshifters and the People, part of a company/research facility of necromancers. It’s one of the few places where the two gather and behave in a civil manner, and neither one is given to drinking much in order to stay in control – the Pack over their beast nature and the People over the vampires that will rip all in sight to shreds if they’re not being careful. Due to the presence of these two dangerous factions, Kate has to wonder at the type of person who would dare attack someone there:

Who the hell would attack the Steel Horse anyway? What was the thinking behind that? “Here is a bar full of psychotic killers who grow giant claws and people who pilot the undead for a living. I think I’ll go wreck the place.” [pp. 10]

However, it’s her job and she is enticed with promises of cookies so she heads over to check it out.

What she finds there is even worse than Kate had anticipated – the dead body of a man is pinned to a pole by a crowbar. Further examination reveals the corpse is infested with a living, intelligent disease that must be contained quickly. Once Biohazard takes care of the potential plague and clears Kate as being uninfected, she does some questioning but the main clue is that a man in a cloak was the instigator. Thus begins the case of the “Steel Mary,” which Kate throws herself into as she tries to forget about Curran, who recently stood her up.

Each book in this series has been better than the last, and Magic Strikes was so excellent that it was going to be difficult just to match it. Magic Bleeds did take longer than the third book in the series to really hook me, but once it got going it had everything I loved about the previous installment – great character interactions, lots of action, humorous dialogue and occurrences, a strong mythological basis outside of the ordinary, so many memorable moments and lots of references to The Princess Bride (and other literature but mainly The Princess Bride). It was one of those books that had me rereading parts I just read before moving on, and I didn’t want it to be over. At times heart-wrenching, at times heartwarming, it was very emotionally gripping.

When I say it took me longer to get absorbed in this one, it was probably largely due to impatience because it was immediately interesting. It’s just that so much happened at the end of Magic Strikes and I really wanted to see how all that played out. Plus I found it a little disconcerting that so little seemed to have changed after all that had happened at the end of that novel. Kate destroyed Roland’s sword in front of an arena full of people, including Roland’s own personal warlord who has to know exactly what that means, and she’s just continuing on with her life working for the Order as if nothing happened? She hasn’t had to go into hiding or been hunted down? This didn’t make a lot of sense to me at first, but this concern was addressed and it seemed perfectly logical later.

Not much may have seemed different toward the beginning, but there were a lot of big changes by the end. It was not at all predictable and a lot of events were ones I did not see coming at all – and so many of them were so very satisfying to read about. It felt like the overall story arc was concluded, but it also had little mysteries that leave one wondering what will happen in the next book. I particularly love how slowly information about Roland has been revealed with little bits and pieces that leave one theorizing about just who he is (I have my suspicions, especially after reading the story of the first vampire).

Although I would never say it crossed the line from urban fantasy into paranormal romance, this is more relationship-oriented than the other books in the series since Kate and Curran face their own relationship. When reading this one, it really struck me just how perfect Kate and Curran could be together – they are both so stubborn and set in their ways. If one of them is going to be with someone else, that someone had better be just as hardheaded. Curran needs to let go of his protectiveness and belief that it’s his way or no way, and Kate needs to do the same to a certain extent. They clash so much because of their personalities, but neither one could be with anyone less aggressive without walking all over that person. If they care enough to compromise, both of them would probably be better off because of it.

As with the previous installment, there was some info dumping. There seems to actually be more of this as the series continues, probably because a lot of this is to explain events that happened in the earlier books. Even so, the overall quality has been increasing not decreasing so I’m not going to complain too much about the more frequent stops to fill in readers unfamiliar with previous installments.

Magic Bleeds is another strong addition to the series that manages to uphold the same high standard set by Magic Strikes. Each book delves a little further into Kate’s past as it comes to affect her present. This one discloses even more than the last, but it also manages to remain delightfully suspenseful by not giving too much away. Ilona Andrews continues to excel at balancing character and plot with a good dose of humor while slowly unraveling and advancing the storyline.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it after refusing to begin another book on the bus ride home from Book Expo America – because no other book would do after finishing Magic Strikes.

Read the Beginning

Reviews of other books in this series:

Other reviews:

Earlier this week Laini Taylor announced that her book tentatively titled Daughter of Smoke and Bone was picked up by Little Brown Books for Young Readers. Its release date is fall 2011. In the post on her blog, she discusses some of how this new book came to be and mentions that the next Dreamdark book will not be coming out anytime soon although she will finish them someday.

This is very exciting news (the new book, not the lack of Dreamdark books which made me sad). I’ve read both Dreamdark books as well as Lips Touch: Three Times and think Laini Taylor has a lot of talent. Each of her books is better than the last and she has both a wonderful imagination and beautiful prose style. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for anything she writes.

Magic Strikes
by Ilona Andrews
320pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.35/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.49/5

Magic Strikes is the third book in the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, the pseudonym for a husband and wife who write novels together. Currently, there are four books out of a contracted seven available. The books in this urban fantasy series are in order as follows: Magic Bites, Magic Burns, Magic Strikes and Magic Bleeds. There is also a novella that takes place between the third and fourth books called Magic Mourns in the collection Must Love Hellhounds about Kate’s friend Andrea.

Note: Since this is the third book in a series, there will be spoilers for the previous books.

Magic Strikes picks up about two months after the end of the second book. During these two months, there has been no magic until a couple of days ago. Then the magic came back in full swing, leaving Kate with no time to sleep as she and the rest of the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid are dealing with an influx of supernatural creatures such as tatzelwyrms and two-headed serpents. After rescuing an old lady/harpy from a telephone pole, Kate cannot wait to go home and finally get to eat and rest. Unfortunately for Kate, as soon as she begins dreaming of her last slice of pie, she’s called to go check on a situation involving a dead shapeshifter from the Pack. Although she dutifully arrives on the scene, she is told by Jim, the head of Pack security as well as her old mercenary partner, that it is Pack business and they do not want her help with the matter.

Soon after she gets a chance to go home and eat dinner, Kate discovers Jim is not her only friend from the Pack acting strangely – Saiman calls her to let her know he caught Derek trying to steal his tickets to the Midnight Games, illegal arena-style fights. He is willing to release Derek to Kate and ignore the whole incident but only on the condition that she accompany him to the Midnight Games. Kate agrees, and Derek requests that she give a letter to a woman at the games after securing her promise that she will not read the note. Against her better judgment, Kate keeps her word, but after her one visit to the games she learns some of the Pack members are involved in a huge mess.

The first book in this series was decent and the next one was even better, but Magic Strikes made me a Kate Daniels addict. Each of these books builds on the last and this one was riveting from start to finish. It’s a relatively short book but it manages to fit a lot in while maintaining a great balance between plot/action and character development/interaction.

This is a wonderful addition to the series because it is just so satisfying. At this point, Kate has become a sympathetic, fleshed out character – those glimpses of the fear hiding behind her smart comments in the first book have become more frequent and the more that is revealed about her past, the easier she is to understand. With each book, Kate seems to open up to the people around her more and let them in. This is reflected in her voice as she also seems to be letting down her guard somewhat regarding what information she discloses to readers through her narrative. With each novel, more of her history is told and this book explains some parts that really made one curious, including the mystery surrounding Kate’s blood. Yet it also opens up more questions to theorize about instead of wrapping everything up.

In spite of her increasing ability to become close to others, Kate doesn’t completely let go when it seems practical to do so which makes her growth seem more realistic. Although she has a best friend in Andrea now and seems very close to Julie and Derek, she is still very conflicted when it comes to Curran – and with good reason. Although she is attracted to him, she doesn’t want to become just another woman Curran becomes bored with. There are more scenes with Curran in this book than the previous two and their banter and Kate’s reactions to him are quite hilarious. Even with the increased focus on their relationship, they were spread out very well throughout the rest of the story so it never felt like too much emphasis was placed on it. All the characters who appear are wonderful to read about and the parts with Saiman and Kate are nearly as good as the parts with Curran (and we do learn more about Saiman in this book). There are some good moments with Andrea as well, especially one particular important one toward the end that says a lot about Kate’s growth since we first met her.

With the storyline dealing with the Midnight Games, there were even more fights than usual in this novel. Often I find reading about battles bores me, but every single one had me on the edge of my seat. Reading them through Kate’s eyes shades it with her humor, and there’s so much tension when she’s personally involved. Previous installments have shown that not everything always turns out rosy for all involved at the end, and although she is powerful, Kate is also written the way a powerful heroine should be – she is not invincible. There is still a sense of danger because she’s not the only one in the universe who has power, and she does get seriously injured quite often. She’s still young and inexperienced in some ways and has had to work for a lot of her skill, particularly with her sword.

Like the previous installment, this one has a plot involving mythology. It’s a type of world myth that isn’t explored as often as many, and the author seems to be trying to avoid the pitfall of overusing too much of the familiar. I had to laugh when Dali mentioned Jupiter to Jim during an explanation of the mythology:

“The Roman god?” Jim frowned.

“No, the planet. Honestly, Jim the world doesn’t revolve around the Greco-Roman pantheon.” [pp. 186]

My one complaint would be that there are some infodumps, especially toward the beginning. However, between reading them from Kate’s perspective and the strength of the rest of the book, it wasn’t that bothersome.

Magic Strikes started out strong, remained engaging through the middle and had a fantastic conclusion that showed a lot about Kate and how far she’s come since the first book. Plot and characterization are well-balanced throughout and nearly every single scene is memorable and entertaining.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: I bought it.

Read Chapter One

Reviews of other books in this series:

Other reviews: